CLERMONT, Fla. – The Saint Anselm College softball team kicked off its 2015 campaign Monday morning, splitting its season-opening Sunshine State double header at the PFX Athletics Spring Games at the National Training Center in Clermont, Fla. The Hawks opened the day with a 5-1 victory over Concordia College (N.Y.) before dropping a tough 4-1 matchup to Walsh University in the second game.
Senior hurler Tayla Trask (Lincoln, Maine) pitched an absolute gem in the Hawks' victory over the Clippers, striking out 13 of her 29 batters faced while awarding just three walks in her first appearance of the year. Her four hits sacrificed were spread out through three different innings.
Saint Anselm was aggressive from the start against Concordia (0-1 overall) as after a leadoff flyout, freshman Amanda Bickford (Salem, N.H.) beat out a throw to give the Hawks their first base runner in the top of the first. After another flyout, this time by freshman Megan Murrell (Scarborough, Maine), Bickford attempted to steal second but was thrown down by the Clipper catcher to end the threat.
Trask mowed through the top of the Concordia order before junior Julie LeClair (Taunton, Mass.) launched a solo shot over the left field wall to put the Hawks on the board in the second. Freshman Emily Barrett (Plaistow, N.H.) recorded a hit in her first collegiate at-bat with a liner to left to leadoff the third inning, but she would be stranded at second base as the game remained locked at 1-1 through 3 ½.
After two Trask strikeouts, Concordia's Alexandra Mandarano popped one to deep right field for a stand-up triple. A hot Victoria Vickerman comebacker to Trask in the circle was knocked down, but the speedy Vickerman beat the throw and picked up the Clippers' first RBI of their season. Vickerman would advance to third on a passed ball, but Trask shut down the ensuing batter to preserve the 1-1 tie after three full innings.
It didn't take very long for Saint Anselm to get that run back, as Murrell pasted one off the centerfield wall in her leadoff slot in the fourth inning. LeClair moved her over with a fielders' choice putout by the second baseman. Then senior Hannah Byrne (Lynn, Mass.) launched one of her own over the centerfield fence for the Hawk's second homerun of the game, retaking the lead.
Saint Anselm tacked on two more in the sixth as Byrne picked up her third RBI of the game, doubling in LeClair down the left field line with two outs. Kasey Moran (Medford, Mass.) added a rip up the middle that scored Byrne on a dramatic play at the plate, but the senior leftfielder was thrown out at third to end the Hawks' half of the sixth.
Trask recorded four of the last six outs herself to close out the game and get Saint Anselm off to a winning start.
Game two was another solid pitchers' duel between Saint Anselm senior Paige Cormier (Rochester, N.H.) and Walsh University's Olivia Pifer. Both pitchers combined for just two runs given up through the first six innings as the rapidly paced game boasted just 13 total hits.
Walsh, which improved to 3-0 overall, threatened in the bottom of the first, as a leadoff single by Sam Troxell and two ensuing groundballs moved her to third. Cormier would strand her right there however, striking out the final Walsh batter to end the inning.
After a 1-2-3 offensive inning, Saint Anselm allowed a Cavalier on with an error. Junior catcher Pattie Turner (Toll Gate, R.I.) quickly erased that error by throwing out the pinch runner as Cormier again finished off the second inning with a backwards "K".
Hannah Paitchel (Pelham, N.H.) broke up the no-hitter for Saint Anselm with a leadoff double to right center and she would advance to third on a Crannell fielders' choice. But the Hawks couldn't find the clutch hit to bring her home as the game remained scoreless after 3 ½.
Troxell quickly changed that with a leadoff triple into the left-center gap and she was brought home by a sacrifice fly by Nikki Newman on the ensuing at-bat, giving the Cavaliers the early lead. Cormier would give up another single in the inning, but then induced a groundout and a popout to hold Walsh to just one run.
For the second straight game, the Hawks awoke after the opposing team scored, as Bickord laced a double into the left-center gap to lead off the Hawks' half of the fourth. After a Murrell flyout that couldn't advance the runner and an ensuing strikeout, Byrne came through with a loop single to left as Bickford charged home and avoided the tag at the plate to tie the game at 1-1.
That score remained until the bottom of the seventh, when a single by Anna Anderson brought the Cavaliers to life. Cormier induced a short flyball that was snared by LeClair at second base for the second out, but that brought up the heavy-hitting top of the Cavalier order. Troxell singled through the left side that advanced Anderson to second base and Newman saw a pitch that hung just a bit through the zone and crushed a walk-off three-run blast to dramatically end the game.
Saint Anselm will be back in action tomorrow for Day Two of the PFX Athletics Spring Games in Clermont, where they will take on Georgian Court University at 3 p.m. and Post University at 5 p.m. Both matchups are at the National Training Center complex.
The Spring Games, which run seven days a week for five straight weeks, are the dream of Dr. Dot Richardson, an Olympic gold medalist for fastpitch softball and native of Orlando. This year's games feature 310 teams from across the nation.